CALEB BEAL AND HUNTER RAYMOND INTERVIEW:
May 20, 2014
In the last few years, Toronto has been the spawning ground for some incredible hard rock and heavy metal music including Diemonds and Last Bullet. It is now Midnight Malice’s turn — “Toronto’s Bad Boys of Metal” — to take over the spotlight as they recently released an absolute killer slab of heavy metal with their debut CD ‘Proving Grounds’. Sleaze Roxx met up with founding members, lead vocalist and guitarist Caleb Beal and drummer Hunter Raymond, to discuss everything from the two of them moving from Calgary to Toronto to pursue their musical vision to the band’s ever revolving and currently open bassist position.
Sleaze Roxx: You have a killer debut CD called ‘Proving Grounds’ that just came out. However, it took more than three and a half years to release it after your first demo ‘Pray For Death’. How come there was such a long delay between your demo and the CD?
Caleb Beal: Basically we just had a lot of line-up changes — it is hard to find a solid line-up. We had Devon Kerr playing guitar for the demo, who is now in Action, and we never really had a solid bass player. You know, before Craig came along — who is now our manager — there wasn’t a lot of direction. We were kind of lost in a retarded sea of sexuality (laughs).
Sleaze Roxx: Speaking of Craig Rose, how did he become your manager and what has been his input or addition to the band?
Caleb Beal: Craig Rose — basically I met him when we first moved to Toronto. We moved into this neighborhood, Parkdale, and he just lived down the street. He was already well known for being associated with other acts in the city. Basically, after he just kind of saw us struggling — and he kind of believed in us and stuff — he came along and started giving us tips and trying to help us out. Eventually he even started booking our shows and now he has been taking care of everything — he does literally everything. He books shows and sets up our tours and stuff. He even drives us. Whatever it takes!
Hunter Raymond: He is a lifesaver! Craig Rose is the lifesaver of Midnight Malice!
Sleaze Roxx: From what I understand, both of you actually moved from Calgary to Toronto at some point to kick start Midnight Malice. Why did you guys leave Calgary and what brought you to Toronto?
Hunter Raymond: Caleb came here first and checked Toronto out at the Bovine Sex Club. He went to see some shows and got really stoked and stuff. He came back to Calgary and then he goes, “Oh yeah sick — we gotta go — there is actually music here.” In Calgary, there was no scene for what we were playing. It was totally different and we were just in a trap of a rock and roll lifestyle with no music. So we had to come here to play the music and still live like that.
Caleb Beal: I just wanted to add, because we were talking about it in an interview before about how in Calgary, the scene was not really existing. That being said, now the scene is totally changed there — it is more upcoming bands and they are actually doing stuff. But at the time when we lived there there was a metal scene but it just was not the same kind of stuff that we were doing. But basically, I came to Toronto and just saw a show. You see that there is the following for the kind of metal that we play and the kind of music that we are into and there are actually venues for it — just a rad city.
Sleaze Roxx: When I listen to ‘Proven Grounds’ it really sounds like old school ’80s metal. What do you think about that?
Caleb Beal: When we are writing all our inspirations — well, not all of them — are heavily based in the ’80s and ’70s and stuff, so it is not surprising that it sounds like that. It was not really a goal, but I mean it is what we do. It is what we listen to so naturally it is going to come out that way.
Sleaze Roxx: Now funny enough, I would assume that both of you probably were not even born when some of these bands came out with their albums (laughs by everyone). How come you are so close to this ’80s sound or this metal sound from 30 to 40 years ago?
Caleb Beal: I think that heavy metal has transcended time very well. It is still well received and there is still a huge scene for it, so there is no surprise that people can still get into it. Yeah, I was born in ’88 so most of the bands I listen to and that I am really into, their best albums came out well before I was even born. But it is still a staying sweet pussy (laughs). The music shines through the ages and the testament is in how large the scene is, still now and thriving more than ever.
Sleaze Roxx: Your former bass player, Jared Verlage, recently left the band. On Midnight Malice’s FaceBook site, you actually indicated that he passed away which would have led to a little bit of confusion (laughs). What exactly happened with Jared and how come he is not in the band anymore?
Caleb Beal: Yeah — it was intentional the way that we scripted that. We said “the passing of Jared”. It was intentional and kind of caused some confusion and stirred it up a bit but it was not done in bad blood or to do anything. Jared basically got a new job and his life was just moving in a different direction. There is no bad blood with him at all. We were all having good times and stuff but he just had to move along to do his own thing — so we will go our way and he went his.
Sleaze Roxx: For your CD release party back in April you got former Anvil bassist Glenn Five to play. How did you hook up with him?
Hunter Raymond: Craig Rose actually got in contact with him. They are old friends from back in the day and so he kind of did it as a favor. Now, he is really stoked and calls Caleb and asks him when we can party and stuff. He is totally awesome. We are happy that he did it because he is great. He is very professional about everything.
Sleaze Roxx: Do you have a replacement bass player? How is that coming along?
Caleb Beal: We do not have a permanent bassist yet. We are working towards it, but we have booked a bunch of Canadian dates for this summer — so we have brought in Brian Stephenson formerly of Aggressor. He has played with Beehler and Annihilator and currently has a band named Old James in Toronto. We are actually in the studio with him these days to keep working on the set. He will be our temporary fill-in mercenary bassist for right now but the position is still available.
Sleaze Roxx: When I look at Midnight Malice, it seems that the bassist position has sort of been the revolving door of the band. Even back in January of 2012 you had put an ad on FaceBook looking for a bassist. How come you cannot hold onto these guys?
Hunter Raymond: Generally, we can’t find a bass player because we always deal with guitar players and make them play bass. Then it does not work out so they get bummed out. That is kind of what happens and actually, we just never really found a kid that could hang out with us either (laughs). You have got to be pretty gnarly (laughs).
Sleaze Roxx: Caleb, you have spent some time in Skull Fist. Tell us about your time in Skull Fist and why you left the band.
Caleb Beal: I actually met Jack (Slaughter) before I even left Calgary and we had been in contact. When I first moved here Teddy Turbo was still playing bass and when the guitarist position opened up shortly after Jack offered it to me and I took it. It was a great way to be introduced into the metal scene in the city. We played a lot of shows in small town Ontario and stuff but just to get to know the scene and get to know people and venues — just to get down with what was going on here — it was an awesome experience. And Jack is a really cool dude. Basically, it just came to a point where I have always been in my own band and done my own thing and it was weird being in somebody else’s situation. There was no bad blood when I left that either. We just talked and I wanted to do my thing and he was doing his — that was when I left.
Sleaze Roxx: Midnight Malice keeps stating what it sounds like. You have listed a bunch of influences like W.A.S.P., Judas Priest and Motorhead, but when I listen to you guys I hear glimpses of those bands but it is not completely the same by any means.
Caleb Beal: It has always been a constant thing with us as well, and a question that people have asked us. It is a question we ask ourselves but I think it is basically just the way we have written songs and the way we have gone about it. We have never really tried to sound like any of our influences or anything. We kind of just get together, write and it comes out how it does. I have a hard time placing exactly what we sound like compared to our influences or compared to other bands.
Sleaze Roxx: I heard in a recent interview that you are thinking of releasing a new record next year. Will you have enough time to come up with new material?
Hunter Raymond: Yes (laughs). Yeah totally! We already have four or five half songs done that we are working on and we have two already completely made. We just keep pushing — keep trying to write them and definitely have it ready because I want to get it out there (laughs).
Sleaze Roxx: ‘Proving Grounds’ was released in Japan on May 14th. How did you work that out?
Caleb Beal: We were approached by Spiritual Beast in Japan to release the album. We had a lot of attention on our demo that was released 10 years ago or whatever (lots of laughter) — actually it was three years ago and it did very well in Japan. So when this came out, there was already a lot of attention on it and Spiritual Beast approached us and wanted to release it. Craig already had a relationship with the guy who owned it before when he was in Japan a year ago or two ago with Skull Fist.
Sleaze Roxx: You have a number of tour dates all over Canada in May and June. What are the prospects of you playing in other countries?
Caleb Beal: This summer it is not very likely, but we are working towards getting into Europe and very actively working into getting into Japan as well — hopefully South America — wherever. Basically, we are just working on promoting the album and it is a lot better to go around Canada with less finances and stuff. We are getting flown out to do all this stuff anyway. Hopefully next year, I figure we will be in Germany. We will get to Europe and we will get to Japan (laughs). Craig has given us a better mind state towards the business end of what we are doing — just doing things that are more lucrative. We do not want to get involved in any kind of endeavors that are going to cost us money unless the exposure is a good enough reward, you know? But until we can get out there, it is like going to Montreal — we can make money. We can make money going across Canada. We can go and make money in Toronto anytime. When we are getting offered flights to Europe to do these things and as they become more reasonable, it is more likely to happen, right?
Sleaze Roxx: How did you come up with the title for your CD?
Hunter Raymond: Actually, we were just farting around with different songs off the album trying to figure it out (laughs). We were originally going to call it ‘Lady Killer’ I think and then we just changed it. ‘Proving Grounds’ is all about growing up in Calgary and fist fighting and doing what we were good at and shit. It actually, to me, kind of makes sense because it is our first CD so it is like the proving grounds — seeing what we can do with it so I am totally stoked.
Caleb Beal: Yeah, basically when we went into the studio with Ian Blurton, we were planning on calling the album ‘Lady Killer’ which was one of the other songs off the album as well. After we finished the recording — after listening to all the songs when they were finished — it just seemed like ‘Proving Grounds’ was the more proper title. We liked it. It seemed more appropriate at the time and like we said, it is the first album we ever released — the first full-length album we have released. It is kind of relevant to the awesomeness of it (laughs).
Sleaze Roxx: What are your favorite songs off ‘Proving Grounds’ and why?
Caleb Beal: We will both take this one (laughs). My favorite song is “Blinder” for sure — I just think it is groovy. It is really like our own sound shines in it. It is a departure from the demo and also it is probably the most recent song that we wrote on the album. I think it is the last one that was actually finished so it is the most relevant to me.
Hunter Raymond: “Proving Grounds” and then also I really like how “Flying Low” turned out this time. I actually really, really like that one.
Caleb Beal: Why do you like how it turned out?
Hunter Raymond: The recording sounds better. It just has some… I don’t know, it just sounds good. I like it — I don’t know (laughs).
Sleaze Roxx: Last question, what are your three favorite albums of all time and why? (Interviewer’s note: After jokingly debating off record what greatest hits album, including Whitesnake’s ‘Gold’, to mention, Caleb and Hunter got down to business)
Hunter Raymond: Motley Crue’s ‘Shout at the Devil’ — just because it’s raw and it’s got street attitude. It is just a bunch of punk kids like me and Caleb playing dirty greasy music trying to get laid and have a crazy time and get fucked up, fuck chicks, party, live and play it fast — awesome fucking music.
Caleb Beal: I’m going to say W.A.S.P.’s first self-titled album just because I sill listen to it. It was kind of my turning point into getting into heavy metal and stuff — it was songs off that album. I still listen to it today so I would have to choose it.
Hunter Raymond: ‘Bomber’ by Motorhead — all the tracks on there are just mind blowing killers like the song “Lawman”, which is a slower groovier song. It has got so much balls, it is amazing. It is like ultimate fucking kick you in the face music. I just love it. “Sharpshooter” — fuck that song is great (laughs)!
Caleb Beal: Totally off of our sound, it has nothing to do with what we sound like now, but Billy Ocean (laughs). No, no, Bad Company’s ‘Bad Company’ — you know, just because I am going to choose all albums that have the same title as the name of the band. Actually, I got into it really hard and it was another album that is still relevant to me today.
Hunter Raymond: Judas Priest’s ‘Point of Entry’ album, mainly just for the song “Desert Plains”. The whole album is amazing too but that is my favorite Judas Priest song ever so I’ve got to go with that one. Everyone loves a million Judas Priest songs but that one is the boss.
Caleb Beal: Yeah, I could totally say there are some Judas Priest albums that I am into but got to pick one. ‘Burn’ by fucking Whitesnake (laughs). Deep Purple’s ‘Burn’ because it was the ultimate line-up for me. David Coverdale is my favorite singer of all time and Ritchie Blackmore is a huge influence on me. Ian Paice, Glen Hughes, Jon Lord — Jesus Christ (laughs)!
Sleaze Roxx: Thank you to Craig Rose of Rose Management for facilitating the interview and the photos.